Series (Game 4 of 4)

New York leads 3-1

Game 1: Saturday, December 28th
Game 2: Wednesday, February 12th
Game 3: Saturday, March 1st
Game 4: Monday, March 10th

Panthers 2

(22-27-9, 65 pts)

Rangers 1

(28-32-2, 67 pts)

7:00 PM ET, March 10, 2003

Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

1 2 3 T
FLA 1 0 12
NYR 0 1 01

V. Kozlov (Panthers - RW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

R. Luongo (Panthers - G): Saves: 40, Save Pct.: .976

B. Leetch (Rangers - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 0

Luongo stops 40 shots, slows Rangers' playoff run

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Rangers' playoff drive stalled Monday night when it ran into a hot goaltender in Roberto Luongo, and a Florida team that has not surrendered its playoff dream.

Keenan says any mention
of Rangers is speculation
NEW YORK -- Mike Keenan is aware of all the talk he will return as coach of the New York Rangers next season.

''It's all speculation at this point,'' Keenan said Monday before his current team, the Florida Panthers, beat the Rangers 2-1. ''I'm not going to talk about my contract situation or anything of that nature. My intention is to help develop the Florida Panthers into a championship-caliber team.''

The 53-year-old taskmaster coached in New York for only one season -- 1993-94, when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years. New York, with its fourth full-time coach in four seasons, is now trying to qualify for the postseason after missing out five consecutive years.

Keenan is working under difficult conditions. Two of his assistant coaches were replaced last week, and Keenan was barred from being on the ice for practice.

''When you're working, you're trying to do your job and pay attention to what your responsibilities are and what you're trying to accomplish,'' he said. ''That's where I've been at all week.''

He spoke calmly Monday and said he was neither bothered nor distracted by the upheaval around him or talk of where he'll be coaching next.

''There are things that are a lot more difficult than dealing with what I had to deal with,'' Keenan said. ''I'm being as honest as I can. It hasn't really affected me one way or the other.''

-- The Associated Press

Viktor Kozlov scored two goals and Luongo made 40 saves to lead the Panthers to a 2-1 victory. The defeat left the Rangers four points behind the New York Islanders, who hold the eighth and final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders have played three fewer games than the Rangers.

The victory also kept the Panthers' hopes alive in the playoff chase as they moved two points behind the Rangers.

''It was like a playoff game,'' said Panthers coach Mike Keenan. ''We had great goaltending, and special teams won the game for us. We still want to stay in the playoff race and that's all that matters to us.''

Kozlov, who sparkled on special teams, snapped a 1-1 tie on the power play at 3:32 of the third period. He ripped a shot from the right circle past goalie Mike Dunham.

The Rangers pressed for the equalizer, but ran into some bad luck. A shot by Brian Leetch trickled past Luongo midway through the period, but the goal was waved off because the referee had blown the whistle. Eric Lindros had a pair of close-in stuff attempts two minutes later and appeared to have scored when the red light went on. However, the video replay judge ruled the puck didn't go completely over the goal line.

''I got pushed at the end and I didn't see,'' Lindros said. ''I thought it went in. Those are the rules we play with at both ends of the ice. We did have a video replay, but unfortunately it wasn't conclusive enough to show that.''

Luongo mopped up the rest for his second consecutive 40-save performance in a 2-1 victory. The other came against Atlanta.

''I like to face a lot of shots,'' Luongo said. ''It really keeps me in the game.''

It was a game the Rangers needed badly. New York was on a season-high five game unbeaten streak and a four-game unbeaten streak at home that carried it back into the playoff hunt.

''We just put too much pressure on ourselves,'' said Rangers forward Pavel Bure. ''We tried too hard, and sometimes when you try too hard, the puck jumps over your stick and misses the net in simple situations.''

Sandy McCarthy scored the New York goal.

The Panthers, one of the league's hottest road teams, played a spirited first period and held a 1-0 lead thanks to the short-handed goal by Kozlov.

With Olli Jokinen in the penalty box, Marcus Nilson nudged the puck away from Alexei Kovalev at the Rangers' blue line. Kozlov scooped up the puck in the neutral zone and broke in alone on Dunham to score his 20th goal.

Florida outshot New York 15-13, but one of the Rangers' best chances didn't register in the total. Leetch rang a shot off the goalpost with the Rangers on the power play.

The Rangers pulled even when McCarthy scored the lone goal of the second period. Dan LaCouture chipped the puck from the end boards to McCarthy in the slot. The big forward had a wide-open side of the net as Luongo and defenseman Ivan Majesky were out of position.

Game notes

Kozlov has 21 goals this season, marking the first time he reached the 20-goal mark in his nine-year career. ... Former Panther Bure played in his 700th NHL game. ... The Panthers have won three in a row on the road and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 road games.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press